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Societal Values

Diesel car options in the US: there aren’t many

Posted in Analysis, Policy, Societal Values on December 2nd, 2007 by leodirac – 7 Comments

My 14-year old Subaru is on its way out, and since I’m commuting to Kirkland almost every day I really need a new car. Primary criteria for me are safety and fuel economy / ecological impact. Safety seems to correlate very strongly with model year so I’m looking at new cars. In theory running on bio-diesel gives your car essentially zero net carbon impact. Also, many new renewable organic fuel sources seem to be more like diesel than gasoline. So I looked at what diesel cars can be purchased new in the US these days. I was amazed at how…

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A Tough Engineering Decision

Posted in Databases, Ego, Societal Values, Software Engineering on May 22nd, 2007 by leodirac – 2 Comments

Here’s the scene: It’s 1:30 PM. In 30 minutes the CEO of your company starts a conference call with analysts to announce quarterly earnings. PR told you he is going to tell the Wall Street analysts how cool your team’s website is. It is quite a success — in 18 months it has rocketed from non-existence to the world’s fourth most popular site in a very competitive industry. Sounds great to get some recognition, right? Only problem is, today your site’s kinda broken. The night before a database upgrade got confused half-way through with no possibility to roll back. One…

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One Laptop Per Child: What I missed at CES

Posted in Education, Societal Values, Technology, Transhumanism on January 15th, 2007 by leodirac – Comments Off on One Laptop Per Child: What I missed at CES

I generally find CES exhausting. It’s amazing how far you have to walk to get anywhere in Vegas. It’s about a half mile walk from the hotel lobby to the elevators to get to your room. And there’s this inflation field caused by everybody living on an expense account — $4 for a small bottle of water or $10 for a small sandwich. It’s worse than an airport. So while I’m always happy to go there and get some hands-on market research and competitive analysis done, or try to close some deals with partners, I’m also generally just as happy…

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New York bans Trans-fats

Posted in Chemistry, Cooking, Science, Societal Values on December 10th, 2006 by leodirac – Comments Off on New York bans Trans-fats

I’m a little slow to re-report this, but but I find it fascinating so I want to share it in case you missed it. New York City has banned the use of trans-fats in restaurants. They’ve done this almost completely (a few exceptions for things like donut shops) and very quickly (by middle of next year) and extremely decisively. I find this amazing for a couple of reasons. First, it drives home the artificial nature of trans-fats. I’ve thought of them as similar to saturated fats in a lot of ways — things that are everywhere but should be avoided….

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Buy More Stuff!

Posted in Humor, Seattle, Societal Values on December 4th, 2006 by leodirac – 3 Comments

Some people complain that the holidays have become too commercial. That the holiest of christian holidays has become an excuse to accumulate material things, and that the true meaning, whatever that was, is being lost. I disagree. I think now is the time to Buy More Stuff! I have to give props out to all my friends who have been dutifully going down to Westlake center on the weekends to spread the good word. Someday soon I hope to have time to join them. The only thing that really surprises me about this is that some (clearly unamerican) people argue…

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Applying Transhumanist Morality to Career Choices

Posted in Education, Ego, Societal Values, Transhuman Morality, Transhumanism on November 17th, 2006 by leodirac – 2 Comments

Transhumanist Morality is the idea that we should consider the impact of our actions in the context of the millennium-scale history of humanity. Specifically, I think the only way we will avoid some kind of dystopian apocalyptic fate is by seeking salvation through technology. In this context, moral actions are those that increase the probability that as a species we achieve technological salvation before we blow ourselves up. I’d like to explore what this means in very practical terms by analyzing a number of jobs I’ve had and considered and seen my friends do over the years. SEO for e-Commerce…

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Interesting Times in China

Posted in Business, China, Geography, Investing, Societal Values, Transhumanism, Travel on November 5th, 2006 by leodirac – 3 Comments

“May you live in interesting times.” -Ancient Chinese Proverb (actually, it isn’t.) The idea behind this saying is that times of rapid change are generally quite painful. Historically interesting times are those involving wars and revolutions — things where lots of people die. Growth and improvement have only come through very slow gradual change. But in today’s China, this is anything but true. Right now is one of the most interesting times in China’s long history, and for the majority of the country, it’s fantastic. (If we all work hard, that kind of intersting time might be behind us.) We…

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Reading Enron’s E-mail

Posted in Business, Humor, Societal Values on October 23rd, 2006 by leodirac – Comments Off on Reading Enron’s E-mail

Ever wonder what Jeff Skilling and Ken Lay were saying to each other before it all fell apart? Now you can read it for yourself. Check out the Enron Explorer. It lets you browse over 200,000 internal Enron e-mails. It’s got a nifty java applet for exploring connections and even has shortcuts for interesting topics like the FBI and shredding. Let’s hear it for information democracy! Thanks to Charles Armstrong for putting this together.

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Transhumanism: Evolution beyond biology

Posted in Personal Growth, Societal Values, Technology, Transhuman Morality, Transhumanism, Uploading on October 4th, 2006 by leodirac – 1 Comment

I consider myself a transhumanist. I spend probably too much time thinking about very long-terrm trends of humanity. Some of the trends I see seem obvious to the point of being irrefutable, while others I’m sure are controversial. Nevertheless, I’ll lay out a few of the basic tenants of transhumanism, and begin to explain why they lead to the very deep and personal implications they have for me. Computers are getting faster and more powerful. As they do so, they’re helping humans be smarter. Maybe not invidual humans, as some studies have shown that things like e-mail and powerpoint can…

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Li’l hip-hop review: White & Nerdy

Posted in Humor, Music, Societal Values on October 2nd, 2006 by leodirac – Comments Off on Li’l hip-hop review: White & Nerdy

I was thinking about getting all serious-like and talking about how cultural relativism makes it hard for me to judge the immorality of gangsta rap that glorifies crime. And I’ll still rant just a bit. But really my main motivation is to shout out props to Weird Al for his new song “White & Nerdy”. (For extra entertainment, watch the questionably-legal video at youtube, at least until they take it down.) It’s parodying a song by Chamillionaire that glorifies smuggling drugs. Nice work dude — way to be a positive influence on other people’s lives. This is one of the…

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